Can CB Corner hold off competition? (photo source)
Thirteen months ago to the day, the Buffalo Bills made Akron CB Reggie Corner their first fourth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Having already selected CB Leodis McKelvin in the first round and with several other need areas to address, the selection was immediately met with huge heaps of skepticism, criticism and cynicism by the Bills' fan base. Some examples:
Corner named Corner. And he’s from Canton? I think the Bills were just hoping that there’s everything in a name!
Feels like a luxury pick being made here.
I feel like screaming at Dick Jauron and co.
Despite a loaded depth chart that should have prevented him playing time, Corner eventually found his way onto the field as a rookie while corners Jabari Greer and Ashton Youboty dealt with injuries. Corner acquitted himself well; appearing in 12 games, Corner picked up 22 tackles, 4 defended passes - including a game-saver in a late-season win over Denver - and a forced fumble.
The Bills lost Greer, a two-year starter, to free agency this off-season. They quickly made up for the loss by agreeing to terms with veteran Drayton Florence. Youboty would be returning to health in time for training camp as well, and the team's starters - Terrence McGee and Corner's classmate, McKelvin - were essentially set in stone. Suddenly, Corner had the look of being buried on the depth chart again. Could it get worse? Certainly - the Bills made USC's Cary Harris their sixth-round pick, and as he's an excellent fit for a zone-based scheme, Corner would have even more competition (in numbers) than he did last season.
He'll turn 26 this coming November; you'll be hard-pressed to find many 26-year-old players in just their second NFL season (hand down, Fred Jackson). With apparently dwindling playing time, a likely shorter-than-anticipated NFL shelf life thanks to his age and serious competition at a position where turnover is very frequent in Buffalo, Corner needed to capitalize on any opportunity he could this season to prove he deserves to be on the field.
It's hardly a surprise, therefore, that he's already making a strong impression just two weeks into OTAs, according to BuffaloBills.com's Chris Brown.
It's the time of year in which players that have been "in the system" for any length of time get reps before players that are expected to get serious playing time. That's why Corner began last week's OTA sessions as the starting nickel corner - Florence had no experience in this particular scheme, and Bills coaches wanted the practice sessions to run as smoothly as possible. Corner's play, however, may eventually prevent anyone from claiming his nickel spot.
Reggie Corner is really taking advantage of the first team reps he’s been getting in the team’s nickel package. With Ashton Youboty likely sidelined until training camp, Corner has made his share of plays over the past five practices including an interception on Tuesday... The second-year defensive back has looked sharp and appears to be playing faster than he did last year as a rookie.
Corner has also been making plays - forcing a Terrell Owens fumble while chasing the veteran receiver from behind last week, and intercepting a Trent Edwards pass intended for Owens during yesterday's practice. By all accounts, Corner's play has been stellar to the point that there is no reason to rush Florence, Youboty or any other player up the depth chart.
In a league in which depth and quality play at cornerback is put at a premium, the Bills have an abundance of talented depth at the position. It may be a surprise to some that Corner is outpacing the competition to this point - and, as always, it's critical to remember that it's May - but his solid play thus far is nothing but a good thing for the Bills. You can never have enough good corners, and if Corner's steady rise up the depth chart ends in his claiming the nickel role, Buffalo's depth at the position will be all the more enviable.